Standing in the living room of his San Francisco townhouse, Jim raised his glass. “To absent friends,” he said, as Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov clinked their glasses against his. Never had that traditional toast carried so much meaning. Jim’s crew was about to be scattered.
The mission was over; The Enterprise, battered and scarred, was in dry dock, waiting to be decommissioned. Scotty was being assigned to the Excelsior, the new prototype ship that was the talk of Starfleet. McCoy was currently on paid leave, ‘resting’ at home after what appeared to be a complete nervous collapse. And Spock—Spock was dead, his body either burned up in space or resting on the Genesis planet.
Spock was dead. Jim’s mind kept saying that phrase over and over, as if repetition could make it real. But nothing Jim said or did, nothing he had tried in the days since that terrible moment seemed to make his mind understand and accept that his friend, his comrade, his mate, was dead, that Jim would never again turn and find Spock standing patiently at his shoulder, ready to offer advice, understanding, and unconditional love. Jim raised his glass to his lips, barely sipping at the wine it contained, cold and numb all the way to his soul. Spock…oh, t’hy’la, how could you leave me behind?
“Admiral,” Uhura said softly, “is there any news on our next mission?”
Jim shook his head. “I keep trying, but I can’t get a straight answer from anyone,” he said, the weariness evident in his voice. “Command is up to its brass in…”
The door chimed. “Ah, there’s Scotty.” Jim turned towards the door, but before he could take more than a step, it slid open, revealing a tall, cloaked figure. Jim took another step and the hood on the cloak was pushed back, to reveal—Sarek, Spock’s father. Jim looked into that craggy face, always so calm, and felt the impact like a punch in the gut. Sarek looked ravaged. He looked like Jim felt.
“Sarek,” Jim said softly, moving forward again. “Ambassador, please come in.” he turned towards the others. “You know my crew.” There were polite murmurs; plainly, no one knew what to say.
Sarek hardly spared them a glance. “I would speak with you alone, Kirk.” He swept past Jim and into the living area.
Everyone exchanged glances, and Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov put down their glasses and filed out, obviously glad to be leaving. At the door closed behind them, Jim turned back to his unexpected guest, glad now that he had lit a fire in his old-fashioned fireplace, providing a spot of warmth in a universe that was now so terribly cold.
“Sarek,” Jim said softly. “I…I would have come to Vulcan…I wanted to come and tell you myself. I am sorry, so very sorry…”
Sarek turned on him, almost savagely. Jim was surprised; in the fourteen years since Jim and Spock had finally admitted their feelings for each other and bonded on Vulcan, Sarek had finally seemed to accept his son’s life path, as well as his son’s choice of a mate.
“Spare me your human platitudes, Kirk,” Sarek snapped. “I have been to your government; I have read the reports; I know what happened on the mission.”
Of course; Sarek would not have hesitated to use his clearance to access every record.
“Then you know how bravely your son met his end,” Jim said quietly. “Sarek, your son meant more to me than you will ever know. I…I would have given my life if it would have saved his.” Even as he said it, Jim knew that was no empty statement. He would have died, willingly, joyfully, if it meant that Spock could have lived. I never wanted to survive you, t’hy’la. I always believed I would go first, and I was glad of it, so very glad that I wouldn’t have to live without you. But now…
Sarek’s eyes bored into Jim’s. “You think that matters?” he asked, bitterness plain in his tone. “How could you do it? How could you abandon him, Kirk? Spock trusted you, and you…you denied him his future.”
“Future?” Now it was Jim’s turn to stare. “Sarek, I saw no future.” Doesn’t he understand that Spock’s dead? Oh, my God, first Bones and now Sarek?
Sarek made an impatient gesture. “Kirk, only Spock’s body was in death. You should have brought him home, allowed his katra, his living spirit, to be safely retrieved. It is our way when the body is close to death, to seek out the one closest to us and link with that person. He asked you to do so, and you failed him.”
Now Jim was even more bewildered. “Sarek, I assure you; Spock made no such request.”
“He would not have spoken of it openly,” Sarek said.
“But then, how…”
Sarek looked at his son-in-law, seeming to truly see him for the first time. “Kirk, I must have thy thoughts,” he said abruptly. “If you will permit?”
Slowly, Jim nodded. They settled in front of the fire, and Sarek’s hand reached out, the fingers settling gently on the psi points of Jim’s face. Jim had to fight back a sudden rush of tears as he remembered all the times Spock had done this, had joined them together.
“My mind to your mind,” Sarek whispered. “My thoughts to your thoughts.”
Slowly, Jim felt the presence of another inside his mind. He could feel Sarek’s grief and pain, but he could also feel acceptance, an acceptance of Jim’s place in his son’s life. Jim clung to that faint consolation as Sarek carefully sought out the memories of that horrible day, the day Khan had almost destroyed the ship, the day Spock had saved them all at the cost of his own dear life. Jim was back in Engineering, pressed against the containment chamber’s transparent door as if he could press his molecules right through the barrier, seeing Spock on the other side, his face horribly burned from radiation, eyes, blind, green blood streaking his skin.
“He spoke of your relationship,” Sarek’s voice echoed through Jim’s head.
“He asked you…not to grieve.”
“Yes.” Jim’s whisper was anguished as he remembered that beloved voice, hoarse with pain. “Don’t grieve, Admiral,” Spock had said aloud for the recorder, while his mind had whispered to Jim’s, Please, t’hy’la. Be brave. Do not mourn, beloved.
“The needs of the many outweigh….”
“The needs of the few,” Jim’s voice whispered as his mind heard Spock again.
“Or the one,” Sarek murmured.
“Spock.” A tear streaked Jim’s cheek. “No….” He was there again, slumped on the other side of the barrier as Spock drew his last breath, as Spock died, alone, in agony, with Jim unable to hold him, unable to feel him in his arms one last time. Jim’s heart broke once more as Sarek ended the meld. Thee two men looked at each other, Jim feeling the wetness of tears on his cheeks, knowing that Sarek could see him crying, not giving a damn if he did.
“It is not here.”
Jim shook his head wordlessly. No, that presence in his mind, that link with Spock that he had enjoyed ever since they bonded—it was gone, as dead as Spock.
“Forgive me,” Sarek said gently. “I did not understand. I did not realize that Spock was isolated.”
“Yes,” Jim replied, feeling the utter desolation go through him again. “We were separated. He…he couldn’t touch me.” He bowed his head, the crushing weight once again overwhelming him. He felt a feather-light touch on his shoulder and looked up to see Sarek’s eyes shining with unshed tears.
“Then all that he was…is lost,” Sarek whispered sadly. “Forgive me, James. I should not have added to your pain.” He rose to his feet and turned towards the door.
“Wait,” Jim managed to whisper, still struggling with pain in his heart. “Wait.”
Sarek turned back, his gaze meeting Jim’s.
“Spock would have found a way,” Jim said. “If it was that important, he would have found a way.”
“Yes,” Sarek replied softly. “I have to think that he would.” Now he almost smiled. “Both you and my son shared an unwillingness to accept no-win situations. But, if he did not join with you, then…”
Suddenly, the memory of that moment in Spock’s quarters, that moment when Jim had heard Spock’s voice but found McCoy sitting in Spock’s chair—suddenly, that moment made terrible, logical sense. “What if…what if he joined with someone else?”
Watching the tape was agonizing, for both Jim and Sarek. Again and again, they replayed bits of it, seeing Spock sacrifice himself, seeing him and Jim exchange their last words, seeing Spock slump lifeless to the ground as the radiation overwhelmed his body. It was excruciating, but it had to be done. They had to find a clue, something to give weight to Jim’s suspicions regarding Spock.
‘There.” Jim pointed. “Computer, freeze image.”
There it was. Spock had incapacitated Bones with a neck pinch, to keep the doctor from stopping his intended plan of going into the containment chamber and putting the warp engines back on-line manually. He gently eased McCoy’s body to the ground, saying with grim humor, “I have no time to argue with you, doctor.” He stooped and picked up the shielding gauntlets, stopping to briefly press his fingers against McCoy’s unconscious face.
“There,” Jim said again. “Computer, repeat and augment image and audio.”
The computer obediently did so. The close-up caught the moment.
“Remember,” Spock said softly. “Remember.” Then he took his hand away and rose to walk to his death. Jim turned to Sarek.
“One alive, one not,” Sarek explained as they once again sat by the fire, “but both in pain.”
“Bones doesn’t know,” Jim said. “He doesn’t realize.”
Sarek nodded. “You must retrieve Spock’s body,” he said firmly. “You must bring them both to Mt. Seleya on Vulcan. Only there can they both find peace.”
“I will try,” Jim replied. “You know that. But the Genesis planet of off-limits, and I don’t even have a ship, let alone a crew.”
“You will find a way.” Sarek was calm now. “I know you, James, and I know what my son means to you. Somehow, you will make this right.”
Jim nodded. “I will,” he said. “You’re right. Whatever it takes, I’ll bring him home.”
“Thank you.” Sarek rose, looking at the human his son had loved so dearly. “My son chose wisely, James. Perhaps I should have said that long ago, but I will say it now. Spock chose his mate well.” With a nod, he was gone, and Jim sat down by the fire once again, his mind busily sorting through options, all his options, up to and including stealing a starship.
“Don’t give up, t’hy’la,” Jim whispered to that invisible presence. “I’ll bring you home. I swear it.”